All posts by keiramunsmith

The End of a Vieira in New York

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

A lot has been going down in the soccer ‘hood in the past week. It seems like every hour news is breaking in both the MLS world and internationally.  It’s been hard to catch your breath before something else happens.  Hot off the press is the big news that the joint bid for the FIFA 2026 World Cup by the US, Canada and Mexico was successful.  

The other news is the departure of head coach Patrick Vieira for OGC Nice and the subsequent announcement of the appointment of his replacement Domenec Torrent.  It’s been rumored for weeks that Vieira would be leaving and despite his denials, the club made its official announcement on Monday.  Not only did Vieira leave his contract mid-season but he took much of his supporting team with him including Christian Lattanzio,  Kristian Wilson and Matt Cook. I was not quite pleased.

New head coach Domènec Torrent brings a plethora of experience working under Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola as well as an endorsement from fellow Spaniard David Villa.  Fans expressed their optimism about Torrent over social media. 

Angela Singh, an active member of The City Celestes supporters group, wrote: “I personally am looking forward to seeing him and his style. He’s got AMAZING credentials (including being the former assistant coach for both FC Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona), and thus won a total of 21 trophies with both teams, the former head coach for Girona FC, and he helped Manchester City as they became the #Centurions and won the Premier League Cup this year!! I’m pleasantly surprised and completely sold – this guy seems like the one who will lead the “Boys in Blue” to the 2018 MLS Cup!”   

Dominic Torrent, Head Coach NYCFC
Domenec Torrent

The first game with Coach Torrent at the helm will be on June 24th when we host Toronto FC. 

Before we completely close the book on the Vieira Era, it’s important to reflect on his last game with New York City.  Hosting Atlanta United on Saturday June 9th had most fans both excited and nervous.  It was Military Appreciation day and featured the US Military Academy parachute team making an aerial entrance onto the pitch.  Atlanta fans were representing all over the stadium along with the anticipated packed and enthusiastic visiting supporters’ section. 

I have to mention our supporters’ section was in especially fine voice.

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NYCFC Supporters’ section filling in pre-game.

New York started with a 3-4-3 lineup which seemed to work extremely well against Atlanta, who have the league’s leading scorer in Josef Martinez.  Although Martinez did score against us, our defense especially Alexander Callens and Sebastien Ibeagha contained him well and made his job much more difficult.

Both Miguel Almiron and Ezequiel Barco were basically non-issues.  Sean Johnson only had one save and claimed one cross. I was surprised at how well NYCFC moved the ball aggressively throughout the field and at the same time were able to apply many layers of defense on Atlanta.  I was expecting the team to be shaken by the rumors of their coach’s imminent departure as well as the lack of consistency in the starting lineup but I was wrong. 

Alexander Callens steals the ball from Josef Martinez.

We had chance after chance to score in this game with a vice of pressure applied to Atlanta’s defense however Brad Guzan was equal to the task making one incredible save after the other with 10 in total.  NY’s shot after shot were repeatedly hitting the posts and crossbar. Until the 77th minute when David Villa perfectly crossed the ball to Callens who finished it with a low, swift diving header that Guzan couldn’t touch. 

With all the chances by New York City, the score stayed even at 1-1, the same ending as when we visited Atlanta in April.  Although it’s hard to come away with only one point, it felt like a bigger picture win to see our Boys in Blue play so well against a strong team.

Atlanta United visiting supporters’ section looks on as Miguel Almiron goes down at Alex Ring’s feet.

Our difficult home stretch has seen us get 4 out of 6 points against two Eastern Conference playoff rivals.  All eyes will be on our new gaffer as we face our nemesis Toronto FC.  I’m optimistic.

All images: nycfc.com

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC humbles Orlando FC 3-0

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, June 2: 3-0 Win

The atmosphere for Pride Day at Yankee Stadium was joyful and optimistic.  Rainbow flags and scarves freckled the crowd and a rainbow of 49 colored seat overlays was laid out for the visiting Orlando fans by our own City in the Community youth. Accompanied by a first and second timer to a professional soccer game, I was excited to be back in the Bronx when it wasn’t pouring rain nor arctic cold.

In a surprising move, New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira did not start David Villa, opting for an initial lineup which included Anton Tinnerholm, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Jo-Inge Berget and Jesus Medina as attacking midfielders/forwards.  Was Villa not started in order to rest him for upcoming big games such as the US Open Cup versus the New York Red Bulls and next Saturday’s match versus Atlanta FC?

While NYCFC dictated much of the the pace of play, Orlando City FC‘s physically intense defending made it difficult to maintain extended possession.  Tinnerholm’s offensive minded style of play made for an easy transition to this role, as he worked well with Tajouri-Shradi and Medina.

Tajouri-Shradi continues to be our most reliable offensive player, with each touch seemingly calculated and deadly.  (He’s scored 7 goals from 8 shots on target this season!) Scoring two beauties in this game with the second goal a banana-style cross which hooked past Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik.

I was equally amazed on that ball, how all NYCFC players moved out of the path of that shot, somehow knowing its trajectory was the net.  Sebastien Ibeagha alone deserves an assist at worst and a Tony Award at best for his decisive deception and screening of Bendik.

NYCFC celebrates Isi's second goal.
Tajouri-Shradi is hugged by teammates Moralez and Tinnerholm after his second goal. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

Speaking of reliable, no one has been more steady, if not spectacular than goalkeeper Sean Johnson.  This was Johnson’s 5th shutout of the season which he pulled out two point blank saves, his 49th and 50th of the season.

The biggest boss move of the game was when Orlando FC’s Sacha Kljestan was awarded a penalty kick and Johnson stood with his arms and legs reaching as wide as possible on the goal line.  Kljestan subsequently kicked the shot wide.  That PK would have tied the game and who knows how it may have changed the final outcome.

Sean Johnson post Orlando
Johnson celebrates his 5th shutout this season over Orlando FC. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

Unfortunately, a great majority of fans have completely lost all remaining patience for Berget.  His lack of finishing ability leaves most to scratch their heads, guessing Vieira’s rationale for continuing to start him.  Yes, he opens up space, he physically takes defenders on which does lend breathing room to teammates, but a striker’s job is to score.  No more excuses.  Berget got a chance to play his “real” position of striker and wasn’t able to produce.  Please sit him.

On the flip side, was the seemingly eternally benched wunderkind Jonathan Lewis who came into the game for Tajouri-Shradi in the 80th minute.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw his name on the screen and was excitedly shouting to my section “It’s Jonathan Lewis!  He’s actually coming in!” Most people smiled back politely as if to say “Okay, strange overenthusiastic person” but they don’t realize how much many of us have been clamoring for him to play this season.

In the 13 minutes he played, Lewis did not disappoint with his speed and ability to maneuver around physical defenders eventually initiating the play that lead to Maxi Moralez‘s goal in the 87th minute.  Hopefully, this is the start of the Lewis era in the Bronx.

Jonathan Lewis
Lewis on the attack. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

With the busy and challenging schedule ahead, we will need contributions from everyone.  See you after the US Open match against “The Team that Shall Not Be Named”.

All images by Tisha Gale for MLSFemale.

Featured image: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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NYCFC loses to Houston Dynamo 1-3: Musings on Marriage and Fandom

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Friday, May 25: 3-1 Loss

Friday, New York City Football Club faced off against Houston Dynamo and left most fans shaking their heads as to what the heck they just saw.  The game started with a wonky lineup and then built up pieces of a proverbial train wreck with bad defensive touches, lack of offensive runs and a horrific looking injury to midfielder Yangel Herrera.

By all accounts it did not seem to be a good night to be an NYCFC fan.  Yet, gathering to watch the match at Ryan’s Daughter in Manhattan at a fan party hosted by NYCFC Nation, celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary to my husband, I got all sorts of feels.  A true fan relationship with the team really is like a solid marriage:  you get some tremendous swooning moments, a few instances of pure soul-spitting anger and a lot of mutual hard work, humor, comfort and picking your battles.

Despite David Villa‘s quick goal to give New York the lead in the first few minutes, it was ugly football with a lack of passion and creativity.  For much of the game, City was dominated by the Dynamo.  Houston capitalized on our slow legs and poor overall defending.  As one NYC fan stated, “We look gassed”.  However, despite disappointment in the result this week, fans bonded in mutual love and dedication to their team.  For true fans, it would take something monumental for us to lose so much faith in our team to jump ship and start over.

At our wedding twenty years ago, my husband and I were given advice in the shape of the 80/20 rule:  As long as you are happy and working together as a team 80% of the time, you are in excellent shape to weather the storms that may occur 20% of the time.

Now, do I translate that to an 80% ball possession and an 80% winning record in MLS?  Of course not, but if the fan’s relationship with the team is mostly positive with a few bumps thrown in, then it’s a worthwhile long term endeavor.  Expecting perfection is unattainable for anybody or any sports team.  However, I dare you to explain that to a New Yorker.

Extra time thoughts:

The diagnosis of Herrera’s injury and prognosis has not been disclosed but he posted a photo of himself in a boot, giving fans hope that the injury was not as serious as it appeared.

New York City Football Club is now without Ronald Matarrita and Rodney Wallace who will be representing Costa Rica in the World Cup.  We will have less depth particularly on the left side.

Safety note! Jumping up and down rhythmically in large groups at Ryan’s Daughter may cause the floor to collapse and is therefore discouraged.

Onward and upwards.

Featured image: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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New York City FC Rolls over the Rapids 4-0

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Photos by Tisha Gale // @gale_tisha

Saturday, May 19: 4-0 Win

This day was officially proclaimed “David Villa Day” in New York City to celebrate the captain’s 400th career and country goal and his contributions to New York City sports.  Despite the decidedly un-Spanish weather with epic downpours and frigid temperatures,  New York City Football Club hosted a goal-scoring party against the Colorado Rapids in his honor.

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David Villa, flanked by Jon Patricof and Francisco Moya. Image: Tisha Gale

It was a festive celebration from the opening of the gates with the first 10,000 fans arriving receiving replica captain armbands and the first 400 founding members receiving commemorative “400” pins.  Fans huddled together under umbrellas and under overhangs to watch Villa receive his official mayoral proclamation as well as gifts and accolades presented by NYCFC President Jon Patricof, City Football Group CEO Ferran Soriano, Andy Drelick of the Third Rail supporters’ group and New York City Councilperson for the 21st district, Francisco Moya.  Even Belgian Manchester City legend Vincent Kompany attended the match.

At kickoff, spirits were high and the supporters’ section, specifically Los Templados and their epic drumming, was louder than ever.  NYCFC dominated the match, despite statistics showing a 65% possession rate.   The pouring rain gave both sides a lot of unexpected touches, bounces and sliding to contend with particularly with players’ bodies launched into the air multiple times.

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NYCFC’s Sebastien Ibeagha and Yangel Herrera launch vertically. Image: Tisha Gale

In typical Villa form, he scored twice to mark his 403rd and 404th goals and was joined in scoring by Maxi Moralez, who also had two assists and first time 2018 scorer, Ronald Matarrita.  Movement, despite the choppy ball bounces and lack of pace on the pitch due to the rain, was fluid and purposeful.  At times, it appeared as if the Rapids gave up on pressuring NYCFC for the ball.  That, and a snappy new tweaked formation allowed City to run away with the game.

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David Villa and Jo-Inge Berget attack through the downpour. Image: Tisha Gale

Final thoughts:

Jesús Medina did not start, following a few games with less than stellar performances but when he was subbed in for Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, at 62′ he brought good movement, awareness of space and was heavily involved in some good scoring opportunities with Villa and Moralez. Fans are hoping that he is returning to the form he displayed earlier in the season.

The change to a 3-5-2 allowed both Matarrita and Tajouri-Shradi to attack down both wings and opened up space in the middle for Moralez to float and make trouble and to collaborate smoothly with Villa and Jo-Inge Berget up top.

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson had two tight saves in the dwindling minutes of the game to keep NYCFC’s sheet clean.

How did Matarrita manage not to freeze in his short-sleeved jersey? He was the only City player not in long sleeves.  Do his tattoo sleeves keep him warm?

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You know who didn’t care about the rain?  These player escorts, that’s who! Image: Tisha Gale

Featured image: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Can’t Stop- NYCFC battles LAFC to a 2-2 draw

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, May 13: 2-2 Draw

Mia’s Magical Falcon versus the Pigeon

No, I promise this won’t be a drool fest about everything Los Angeles Football Club does right.  Humor me for a minute and I’ll quickly move on.  As a New York City Football Club fan, I’m a bit green with envy.

Banc of California Stadium is beautiful – located in actual downtown Los Angeles, a mere walking distance from the USC campus.  The supporters’ section holds over 3200 supporters.  They have a live falcon.  (Hey, I’m into birds of prey.  Don’t judge.)

The soccer-specific stadium has real grass.  The uniforms are timelessly stylish worn by talented, young international players and they are part-owned by sports phenoms Mia Hamm, Magic Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra, and well-known actor Will Ferrell.  I was nervous that the new cool kids in town were going to defeat us.

I hope that some newbies to soccer and detractors of the sport caught some of this match as it was a nail biter with possession ping-ponging from end to end and it was also a fun watch.  From David Villa‘s 402nd goal which was an easy-peasy header rebound off a penalty shot to take the lead 1-0 to Ismael Tajouri- Shradi‘s game tying rebound rocket minutes after being subbed in, the vibe was positively SoCal.  The sun was blinding and the chanting was relentless and intense.

Major props go out to the almost perfect play of LAFC’s Laurent Ciman and Latif Blessing who dished out trouble for NYCFC from the first whistle.  New York City clearly evolved in their strategy of maintaining possession in tight spaces and constantly trying to thread the proverbial needle to maintaining possession but mixing in deep long low balls and high crosses to penetrate LA’s defense.  This game could have gone either way with plenty of missed finishers, great saves, and clearances by both teams.

The good:

  • Tajouri-Shradi is back and scored his fifth goal in as many games.
  • Villa is back in major hustle mode, applying pressure in every corner of the field and was potent in the counter attacks.
  • Goalkeeper Sean Johnson made some ridiculously incredible saves.

The bad:

  • One of the goals LA was credited for was an own goal off a deflection by defender Sebastien Ibeagha.  Ouch.
  • We still have no stadium of our own.

Questions:

  • Will we move forward utilizing this new strategy mixing in long balls or will we go back to our short pass possession method?
  • Is Anton Tinnerholm injured?
  • Why are we not more dangerous off set pieces?

“Can’t stop, addicted to the shindig.  Chop Top, he says I’m gonna win big.”  – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Featured image: nycfc.com

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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“Night Spoiled” New York City FC destroyed by New York Red Bulls

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, May 5: 4-0 Loss

“I don’t have much to say, I’ll be out front
Won’t you come spoil my night?
Feelings come into play and I’m thinkin’
this happens every time.
Spoil my night, spoil my night…”

Before Saturday’s thrashing of NYCFC at Red Bull Arena, and before said night was spoiled, I spent quite a bit of time pondering soccer fandom in the US in general and more specifically the development of franchise rivalries in MLS.  We were, of course, playing our alleged rival in what MLS dubbed the #NYDerby.  There was so much talk in the days leading up to the game about how both NYC fans and NY Red Bulls fans were actually renaming it the “Hudson River Derby” and were resistant to the assumed insistence by the league in naming it a New York rivalry.

As seasoned football fans are quick to point out, a “derby” game doesn’t necessarily indicate a match that underscores the fiercest rivalry.  If you look at Real Madrid, they may play a derby versus Atlético Madrid and fans of both clubs across the city will come out in large numbers, but their true rival in La Liga on any given day would be FC Barcelona.  And in the English Premier League, if you ask any Manchester United fan who their “biggest rival” is, they will answer Liverpool and not Manchester City.  

When soccer fans speak in general about the makings of a rivalry, the common thread is that it’s more than just a geographic commonality.  Fans commented that true rivalries take time and history to develop and that ultimately it’s passion that fuels all.

However, in a league as young and eager to grow as MLS, mere hints of a rivalry by means of geography, team age, and a few contentious games can be accelerated into a full-blown “Rivalry”.  These matches are easy to advertise and market and they sell more tickets.  Both derby games and matches against a league rival grip fans as they give them a rare chance to loudly proclaim which clan they identify with. 

“The beautiful game is for the fans and they are the ones responsible for defining what is meaningful and important and what or who isn’t”. – NYCFC fan Angel Meza

In the case of the New York City and the Red Bulls, some say that it’s not a true historical rivalry and not even a true derby game as the Red Bulls’ home is in Patterson, NJ.  However, there is clearly true animosity and, for many NYCFC fans, it stems from the belief that a New York team needs to actually play in New York State. 

It seems that the perceived highjacking of the “NY” in RBNY was the big rub.  Not that the actual team or its fans had any say in that decision.  No matter, as one City fan succinctly stated, “The one thing that makes a rivalry a rivalry is both sides agreeing it is one.”  And that may be the only thing that most NYCFC and Red Bulls fans can agree on.

Special thanks to the following fans for sharing their thoughts about soccer fandom:  Andrés Emilio Soto, Stephanie Plaut, Osman Sosa, Rollie Joe Carney, Anthony Scarcello and Angel Meza.  And thanks to Post Malone for those lyrics.

Featured image of HC Patrick Vieira: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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